UPDATE: Man who fled before sentencing for DUI crash is back in Kern custody, set for sentencing next week

Crime Watch

UPDATE (8/27): Gutierrez is back in Kern County and held without bail. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.


BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — When it came time for Esteban Valdez Gutierrez to face punishment, he refused to show.

Gutierrez, 39, pleaded no contest last year to DUI and hit-and-run charges in a crash that left a woman permanently disabled. Allowed to remain out of custody, he promised to return for sentencing.

He decided to leave town instead.

But Gutierrez will soon be back in a Kern County courtroom. And he won’t get another chance to run.

Prosecutors on Tuesday said Gutierrez was arrested in Tijuana, Mexico. U.S. Marshals will transport him back to Bakersfield.

“After 18 months of hiding in a foreign country to evade punishment, the long arm of the law has caught up to Esteban Gutierrez,” District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said in a news release. “Gutierrez’s crimes have caused irreparable harm to our community and forever impacted the life of the victim and her
family.”

His plea agreement stipulated a sentence of 12 years and eight months in prison. More penalties are likely to be added because of his failure to appear.

The crash

The morning of Dec. 1, 2016, Gutierrez ran a red light as he drove south on Calloway Drive. He broadsided the car of Jourdan Bacot as she was turning into the parking lot of Riverlakes Community Church, where she was headed to lead a Bible study class, according to prosecutors and court filings.

Gutierrez ran and was arrested shortly afterward.

Bacot, 23 at the time, spent days in a coma. She remains in a vegetative state.

Bail for Gutierrez was originally set at $150,000, then raised at the request of prosecutors to $500,000. A judge granted a defense request in March 2017 to reduce bail to $141,500.

Gutierrez posted bail and was released. He remained out of custody for the remainder of the court proceedings. As conditions of his bail, he was ordered not to drive and placed on a GPS monitor.

On the morning of May 28, 2020, the date of his sentencing, his GPS monitor sent an alert indicating it was being tampered with, prosecutors said. Officers found the monitor, which had been cut off.

Since then, prosecutors, Bakersfield police and the U.S. Marshals Service had been working to locate him. They developed information he was in Tijuana and, working with Mexican authorities, U.S. Marshals took him into custody.

Gutierrez goes by the nickname “Psycho” and has prior convictions for possession of drugs or alcohol while an inmate, driving without a license and drunk and disorderly conduct, according to court records.

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